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Toward a Quantum Strategy for Canada

Conference Day: 
Day 1 - November 13th 2019
Takeaways and recommendations: 

Toward a Quantum Strategy for Canada

Organized by: Christina Stachulak and Nicole Arbour, National Research Council Canada 

Speakers: Christian Sarra-Bournet, Executive Director, Institute Quantique, Université de Sherbrooke; Aimee Gunther, Policy Officer, Defence Research and Development Canada; Arman Zaribafiyan, Head of Quantum Computing, 1QBit; David Cory, Professor & Canada Excellence Research Chair Laureate, Quantum Information Processing, Institute for Quantum Computing, University of Waterloo; Gail Murphy, Vice-President, Research and Innovation, University of British-Columbia

Moderator: Geneviève Tanguay, VP-Emerging Technologies, National Research Council of Canada

Takeaways:

  1. Four decades of investment in quantum computing has put Canada at the global forefront of this nascent industry (e.g., ranks high in number of scientific publications, startups, patents and funding by government and industry).

  2. Canada’s fundamentals in quantum are strong but industry take up has been slow. Government can play a critical role as an early adopter of quantum.

  3. Canada currently lags many countries in developing a national quantum strategy. 

  4. A proposal for a national strategy is under development.  The strategy would allow Canada to:

    • Consolidate an active ecosystem composed of academic institutions, industry and government laboratories;

    • provide support for university-based quantum research, focusing primarily on medium- to large-scale projects; 

    • Take a more coordinated, collaborative and multidisciplinary approach to translating research into tangible impacts that can help companies scale;

    • Address a critical quantum skills shortage in Canada; and

    • Share best practices and other proven ideas (e.g., mentoring programs).

  5. Other disciplines (e.g., engineering, materials science) need to be aware of how quantum computing can offer solutions in diverse sectors.

  6. The public may have a general awareness of quantum but some may fear its potential negative consequences. The Department of National Defence’s quantum strategy attempts to address this by communicating the positive impacts quantum can have (e.g., sensors that keep Canadians safe). 

Suggested Actions:

  1. Promote Canada’s leadership in quantum: “If you think quantum, think Canada”.

  2. Continue to support quantum technologies throughout the innovation continuum, from fundamental research through to industry adoption and scale up.

  3. To effectively engage policymakers on quantum, focus on its potential impact (i.e., According to a study commissioned by the National Research Council, Canada’s quantum technology industry is forecast to grow to $8.2 billion by 2030, employing 16,000 people)

  4. Better coordination is needed among existing funding programs to accelerate advances in, and adoption of, quantum technologies.

  5. Connect with early adopters in diverse industry sectors by focusing on their problem, not the technology.

  6. Make students aware of job opportunities in quantum. For example, the Q2 program at the University of Sherbrooke’s Institut Quantique is a student-driven initiative that supports entrepreneurship and linkages with potential employers. 

  7. Create a platform that can showcase the strength of Canada’s quantum sector to multinationals and the world.